Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Dyson Spheres Work

Bomb-Like Power

The sun produces an unimaginable amount of energy. To put it one way, it generates about 5 x 1023 horsepower. According to NASA, that's enough energy to melt an ice bridge (two miles wide and one mile thick) spanning from Earth to the sun ... in a single second [source: NASA]. That's the rough equivalent of one trillion 1 megaton bombs going off each second. To put it a less scary way, a single second of sun action is enough to power our world for half a million years [source:].

That's a serious amount of power. Every second, the Earth receives about 400 trillion trillion (nope, that's not a typo) watts worth of the sun's power. Yet because of its distance and direction, most of it doesn't reach our planet. Surrounding the sun with an energy-capturing megastructure like a sphere would be a far more efficient way to snag the sun's crazy juice.

You could build a solid sphere around the sun to catch every last ray. In doing so, you'd have 550 million times more surface area than our whole planet, all catching rays to send back to Mother Earth in the form of raw power.

Of course, in addition to plummeting millions of people on Earth into permanent seasonal-affective disorder, you'd be facing very real gravitational challenges. In short, it would be really difficult to keep the sun centered within the sphere, meaning that it might collide with an edge of a sphere, causing a catastrophe so amazing that it would likely garner the most YouTube views ever ... if anyone survived to upload it.

There's also the extreme difficulty of finding enough raw materials to build a solid shell. Such a feat would probably require more material than we could find in our entire solar system.

Even if we could find enough solid material to build a solid sphere to envelop the entire sun, the strength of this gigantic sun ball would have to be Herculean. Otherwise the sphere would just break into an untold number of pieces. In other words, it would be another spectacular failure.

So, let's skip the unfeasible solid sphere altogether. On the next page you'll read about ideas that might be more within the realm of reality.